Medieval India

Administration of the Delhi Sultanate

The government established by the Turks was a compromise between Islamic political ideas and institutions on the one hand and the existing Rajput system of government on the other. Consequently many elements of the Rajput political system with or without changes became part and parcel of the Turkish administration in India. Most of the Sultans kept up the pretence of regarding the caliph as the legal sovereign while they themselves were the caliph’s representatives.

Most of them included the name of the caliph in the Khutba and the Sikka and adopted titles indicative of their subordination to the caliph. Three rulers emphasised their own importance. Balban used to say that after the Prophet the most important office was that of the sovereign and called himself the Shadow of God. Muhmmad bin Tughlaq assumed this style during the early years of his reign and although Balban had retained the name of the caliph in the Khutba and Sikka, he made no mention of caliph anywhere. Despite all this neither of them had the power to call himself the caliph. The only person who had done this was Qutubuddin Mubarak Khalji. Only three Sultans sought and secured a mansur or letter of investiture from the caliph. The first among them was Iltutmish. Next Muhmmad bin Tughlaq tried to pacify the ulema by securing an investiture from the Abbasid Caliph in Egypt.

After him Firoz also sought and secured it twice. According to Islamic ideals essential attributes of a sovereign required that he should be a male adult suffering from no physical disability, a freeborn Muslim having faith in Islam and acquainted with its doctrines and he should be elected by the people. There were several violations of the prescribed criteria as Raziya was raised to throne despite her being a woman. Minority proved no bar in the case of Mohammad bin Tughluq. Alauddin Khalji admitted his ignorance of the Sharia but nobody questioned him. In the framing of new rules and regulations the authority of the Sultan was circumscribed and every ruler could not govern the kingdom in complete disregard of the advice of the ulema or theologians as Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad Tughluq had been able to do. The power of the nobility also blunted their authority to some extent. When there was a weak ruler on the throne the nobles and the ulema particularly dominated him but during the reign of Balban, Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad Tughluq these checks proved ineffective. The sultans were not powerful enough to rule the land in complete disregard of the sentiments of the Hindus.

Iqtadari System

Iqtadari System was a combined mechanism of expropriating tax and distribution of these revenues to the ruling class. It was a kind of territorial assignment which was guided by three factors –

  1. Collection of revenue
  2. Maintenance of army
  3. Maintenance of the traditional system in order to prevent any untoward reaction


The term Iqtadari system was coined by Nizamul Mulk to maintain smooth administration of the Abbassid Empire. The sultans of Delhi Sultanate like Balban, Iltutmish, Allauddin Khilji etc effectively used the Iqtadari system for their centralization of power. The Iqtadari system did not confer any ownership in land and it was subject to transfer.

The iqtadar had two functions – to collect the revenues and distribution among the soldiers. It was a unique blend of expansion and consolidation.

Type of Iqtas in the Iqtadari System

The Iqtas were of 4 types:

  1. Iqta- It was administrative cum military grants
  2. Iqta-i-Tamlik- Iqta for collection of revenue
  3. Iqta-i-Istighatal-An Iqta of stipends
  4. Iqta-i-Waqf-Iqta for charitable purposes.

Judicial System

The sultans implemented shariat or the Islamic law of crime and punishment the main sources of which were the Quran, the Hadis and Ijma. The ecclesiastical cases were separated from the criminal and civil suits.

The durbar of the sultan constituted the highest civil and criminal court of justice which took original as well as appellate cases. Below the sultan there was the court of qazi-i-quzat or the chief justice of the empire. Muhtasib the censor of public morals acted as police cum judge in the observance of the canon law by the Muslims. The village panchayats enjoyed the sanction of the state to administer justice according to the local tradition, customs and the personal law of the populace. The penal code was severe, physical torture and capital punishment constituted an essential part of it.

Military organization

The sultanate was military dictatorship; it owed its genesis to the military victory of the Turks over the Indian rulers in the 12th and 13th centuries and its strength and stability depended primarily on its strong and efficient army. The army organization of the sultans was based on feudal principles which carried all the inherent defects of the system with it.

Provincial Government

The provincial government of the sultanate was not well developed. The provincial governors of the region were usually called walis or muqtas. The provincial government was an exact replica of the central government.

In some provinces the sultan appointed an imperial officer called sahib-i-diwan for controlling the provincial revenues and he exercised a sort of check on the powers and activities of the governor. The provinces were further divided into shiqs or districts which were governed by shiqdars. Each shiq comprised a few parganas which was an aggregate of villages. At the lowest ladder were the villages which were governed by their local panchayats.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button